Maradona urges Messi not to quit Argentina

World Cup winner Diego Maradona has called on compatriot Lionel Messi not to abandon international football after the Argentina captain announced he was quitting the national side following Sunday’s Copa America final defeat.

Maradona, captain of his country in the their second World Cup triumph in 1986, was among many leading personalities to speak out in support of Messi, who appeared badly affected by the penalty shootout loss to Chile in New Jersey.

The 29-year-old Messi, a multiple trophy winner with Barcelona, has now been part of four final defeats with the national team, three in the Copa America and at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

“Messi must carry on in the national team… because he still has a lot to give, because he’ll get to (2018 World Cup hosts) Russia with chances of being world champion,” Maradona was quoted as saying in the Argentine daily La Nacion on Monday. Naijabet 

“He has to lean more on the lads who can help him take the team forward and less on those who say he should leave,” added Maradona, who played in two World Cup finals.

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Romania sack manager after Euros exit

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Romania sacked manager Anghel Iordanescu on Monday after they were knocked out of Euro 2016 in the first round, with the country’s best-known former player Gheorghe Hagi among the names tipped to replace him.

Iordanescu became the first managerial casualty of these European championships after his team finished bottom of Group A following an opening 2-1 loss to hosts France, a 1-1 draw with Switzerland and a 1-0 defeat to Albania.

The 66-year-old former Steaua Bucharest player, criticised by his country’s media for his team’s lacklustre performance, had left it up to the federation to bring down the axe on his third spell as national boss after refusing to resign.

FRF president Razvan Burleanu said: “We will announce the new manager by the end of Euro 2016. Naijabet.com

“We’re looking for someone with more than 10 years’ experience at the highest level, someone who has won titles and who is motivated by qualifying Romania for the (2018) World Cup.”

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Iceland knock England out of Euro

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Iceland pulled off one of the biggest shocks in European Championship history when they stunned abject England 2-1 in Nice on Monday, leading Roy Hodgson to quit and sending the tiny nation into a quarterfinal against hosts France.

Although the soccer pedigrees of the two countries could not be more different, Iceland looked the better team in just about every aspect of the game and fully deserved to extend their dream run on their first tournament appearance.

After falling behind to a fourth-minute Wayne Rooney penalty they levelled almost immediately through Ragnar Sigurdsson and struck again in the 18th with a shot by Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.

A ponderous England never looked remotely capable of finding a way back into the game and even at the end when they were reduced to launching long balls into the box, Iceland dealt with everything comfortably. Naiijabet

“It feels fantastic to come here as an underdog and perform in this way,” said Iceland joint-coach Lars Lagerback, who also claimed two wins and four draws against England in his days as Sweden manager.

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Spanish era goes on – Del Bosque

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Spain coach Vicente del Bosque batted away questions about his future and denied it was the end of an era for his side they lost 2-0 to Italy on Monday and crashed out of Euro 2016.

“It has been and is a great era for Spanish football. We have Italy ahead of us for the World Cup qualifiers in Russia and we have to prepare for that,” Del Bosque said after Monday’s defeat at the Stade de France.

“I don’t think an era has ended. Spanish football is very well structured – there are good academies, very good players and very good clubs.

“This shows us how difficult it is to win a major championship. Only one can win – the other 23 will be eliminated.” Naijabet.com

Of his future he said: “There is no point going over and over this, I will speak with the president and decide the best thing for the national team.”

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Messi exit leaves Argentina in turmoil

Lionel Messi’s tearful decision to quit the international team left Argentinian football in turmoil on Monday after a traumatic penalty shootout defeat to Chile in the Copa America final.

The heartbroken Barcelona superstar left the field in tears after missing a spot-kick in the shootout in the United States on Sunday – Messi’s fourth straight defeat in a major final with Argentina.

“For me the national team is over,” the 29-year-old told reporters.

“I’ve done all I can, I’ve been in four finals and it hurts not to be a champion.

“It’s a hard moment for me and the team, and it’s difficult to say, but it’s over with the Argentina team.” Naijabet

Manchester City star Sergio Aguero warned that other players could also quit the national side.

“We were all devastated in the dressing room, particularly Leo, I’d never seen him in such a state,” he said.

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‘Enyimba won’t fail Sundowns test’

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Enyimba forward Onyekachi Peter has said his side will not disappoint at the Premier Soccer League (PSL) giants, Mamelodi Sundowns.

The Nigerian champions will be the guests of the South African side in Wednesday’s Caf Champions League Group B matchday 2 clash at the Lucas Masterpiece Moripe Stadium in Preoria, South Africa.

The Nigerian campaigners were benched 0-1 on home soil in Port Harcourt by the Egyptian opposite, Zamalek SC while Mamelodi Sundowns saw their heroic 2-0 win at Algerian side, ES Setif count for nothing after the African football body, Caf, found the North African side wanting on a rules violation.

Peter said his side are condemned to heave themselves back to group qualification with a convincing win at Mamelodi Sundowns.

“The clash at Mamelodi Sundowns is a must win for us to chance qualifying from the group after a matchday 1 fixture clash loss to Zamalek of Egypt. Naijabet.com

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Euro : France must start stronger to finish better

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France started a match poorly once again at Euro 2016 and once again they got away with it, beating Ireland 2-1 to reach the quarterfinals on Sunday.

But the players know that from now on they must be faster out of the blocks and cannot rely on luck and a late charge.

Les Bleus got off to an excruciating start against the Irish when Paul Pogba fouled Shane Long in the second minute and Robbie Brady converted the resulting penalty.

A tactical switch at halftime, shifting Antoine Griezmann closer to Olivier Giroud up front, gave the hosts more impact, with substitute Kingsley Coman adding speed. Naijabet

“We told ourselves we had to move our asses, that we were the France team and a defeat would make us a laughing stock,” said Griezmann, who scored France’s goals in the 58th and 61st minutes.

“Our opening minutes are very bad, we must improve in that department because we’re not going to get away with it every time.”

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Del Bosque expects the ‘real Italy’

Spain boss Vicente del Bosque is not expecting a repeat of their crushing 4-0 victory over Italy in the final four years ago when the two sides meet in the last 16 of Euro 2016 on Monday.

Spain destroyed the Italians in one of the most one-sided finals in the competition’s history at Euro 2012 to clinch their second consecutive European title and reaffirm their status as the world’s then dominant side.

Del Bosque, however, believes that encounter will offer few clues as to how Monday’s match in Paris will pan out. Naija and Bet

“I think that game was conditioned by a lot things, above all Italy were very tired,” the Spain coach told reporters on Sunday.

“They were not the real Italy, the Italy they are now. I think they a lot better. They were really tired when they got to the final and we took advantage.”

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England can win Euro – Rooney

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England captain Wayne Rooney has set his sights on winning the European Championship, buoyed by the belief that the gap between his team and Europe’s continental footballing elite has narrowed considerably in the past few years.

Monday’s 0-0 draw with Slovakia ensured that England finished second in Group B behind Wales, potentially complicating their route to the final as they are now in the same side of the draw as World Cup winners Germany, defending European champions Spain and hosts France.

English FA chairman Greg Dyke had said before the tournament that making the semifinals or being eliminated at the quarterfinal stage by “a good team” would be considered a success, but Rooney has set his sights considerably higher. Naija and Bet

“We are here and we want to win it,” England’s all-time leading goalscorer told reporters. “Whether it happens remains to be seen, but we’re not going to say that getting to the quarterfinals will be a sign of progress. I believe we are better than that.”

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Chile beat Argentina to win Copa

Holders Chile stunned Argentina to win the Copa America Centenario in a penalty shoot-out on Sunday as Lionel Messi’s title curse struck again.

Messi blazed a penalty over the bar in the shoot-out before Lucas Biglia missed to leave Chile’s Francisco Silva with the task of stroking home the winning spot-kick at the MetLife Stadium.

It was a carbon copy of last year’s Copa America final, also won by Chile on penalties after a goalless draw.

Argentina’s players meanwhile were left disconsolate as they digested a third defeat in a major final following losses to Germany in the 2014 World Cup and Chile in last year’s Copa.

The defeat also ensured Argentina’s 23-year wait for a major title – and a first for five-time world player of the year Messi – continued.

The final had gone to penalties after finishing deadlocked at 0-0 after 120 minutes.

Both sides were reduced to 10 men in the first half as Brazilian referee Heber Lopes struggled to get a grip on an ill-tempered contest played in front of a crowd of 82 026.

The first yellow card of the match came in the 16th minute when Marcelo Diaz brought down Messi with a cynical hack across the thighs as the Barcelona star advanced on the Chilean goal.

Argentina should have taken the lead on 21 minutes when a defensive blunder from Gary Medel, miscontrolling a back pass, allowed Gonzalo Higuain to go clean through on goal.

Higuain had time and space but opted to lift his shot over the advancing Bravo and it rolled wide of the post in a huge let-off for Chile.

It was a nightmarish case of deja vu for Higuain, who missed potentially match-winning chances in both the 2014 World Cup final and last year’s Copa America.

Seven minutes later Chile were left rocking when Messi burst forward only to be bodychecked blatantly by Diaz.

For a moment it appeared that referee Lopes had forgotten Diaz’s earlier caution but eventually he brandished a red card and Chile were down to 10.

It ought to have been a warning to both sides but the spiteful tone continued for the remainder of the half, with Javier Mascherano and Arturo Vidal next into the book in the 37th minute.

The next flare-up came on 40 minutes when Messi darted into the box at high speed and tumbled over following a collision with Jose Pedro Fuenzalida.

Chile’s players surrounded Lopes demanding a yellow card for a dive and Messi was duly booked even though it looked for all the world as if he had simply gone down after being caught off balance.

Two minutes from halftime and Lopes was reaching for a red card, this time sending off Manchester United’s Marcos Rojo for a rough tackle on Vidal.

The cards continued in a fractious start to the second half, Jean Beausejour booked for hacking at Gabriel Mercado.

A cynical foul on Messi by Charles Aranguiz resulted in another yellow card.

The introduction of Sergio Aguero for Higuain had little effect with Argentina failing to break the stalemate.

Chile striker Eduardo Vargas went close on the 80th minute, thumping a fierce low shot that Romero did well to block at his near post.

Aguero had a chance to steal victory in the 84th minute when he was worked into space on the right of the box but he blazed his shot high and wide.

There was still time for late drama when Ramiro Funes-Mori made a stunning match-saving block to deny Alexis Sanchez.

From the Argentinian counter-attack, Messi surged forward from halfway to shoot wide.

Amid suffocating tension in extra-time, Chile had the best early chance to score in the 98th minute when he headed Edson Puch’s cross only to be denied by Romero.

Aguero then drew a fine save from Bravo with a looping header.

After that there was little in the way of chances, leaving the game to hinge on the penalty shoot-out.